Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snorkelling & Incest

On a French Polynesia holiday I greatly enjoyed learning to snorkel in the lagoon. The water was warm, the sights were amazing, each area different and alive with movement as the brightly coloured fish darted and swarmed over the coral.

Particularly so in Raiatea. At the hotel there was a small jetty. I would go in at the end and float contently over the shallow reef. But I recall one terrifying moment. The main reef seemed miles away. On the shore one could hear the distant roar of waves crashing in to it. But in the placid lagoon I felt quite safe, until suddenly my little reef abruptly ended and I found myself gliding over a void of pitch black water plunging down and down. I hastily turned and paddled back to the protective coral. That was a depth I could go without.

Another memory is the open air restaurant at Huahine beside the beach. Large crabs scuttled around for scraps from the table much as sparrows do at some New Zealand cafes. It was the only time I have ever eaten a flash evening meal only wearing swimming trunks. The mixture of French, Chinese and Polynesian food was superb while the singing from the churches on Sunday was an enthralling sound.

And Bora Bora lived up to expectations.

To change tack completely, I’ve nearly finished reading the biography of Dorothy Wordsworth. It’s got me dipping into her Grassmere Journals. The constant stream of ex-soldiers and sailors begging puts a different perspective on the Napoleonic Wars. It was not all glory. It was penury for those maimed in the battles.

Francis Wilson discusses the relationship between William and Dorothy. Was it incestuous? There is an element of reasonable doubt. There is no doubt that they had an intense bond. Wilson makes an interesting side-issue that Emily Bronte was influenced by the debate about these two people. Shortly before Wuthering Heights was written De Quincey publicly raised the likelihood of incest between them. When Cathy says her relationship with Heathcliff is like ‘the eternal rocks beneath’ was it reflecting this possibility. An intriguing question about one of my favourite books. Literature’s like this, one thing leads to another. I’d never made the connection between the Wordsworths and the Brontes.

I also learn that Freud said often a cigar is only a cigar. In other words, face value is the nearer truth rather than irritating speculation.

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